Last season, Bryan Rodney was called in to help out on the Carolina blueline and he made a very positive impression. The defenseman played eight games for the Canes and chipped in with two assists but the club already had eight defensemen under contract and when they were all healthy enough to play, Rodney had to be sent back down to Albany.
Many thought that he had an inside track to make the team this training camp. All signs seemed to point to that direction because Rodney was known as a powerplay expert and the Canes lost two valuable defensemen over the offseason in Dennis Seidenberg and Anton Babchuk who were mainstays playing on the powerplay in 2008-09.
But somewhere along the line, the Hurricanes decided to go all big on the blueline and sent Rodney packing to Albany while Jay Harrison made the team. Harrison was another big, strong, but slow, stay at home defenseman, much in the same mold of the other defensemen the team signed over the summer.
The Hurricanes tried several new options on the point with the man advantage. Matt Cullen, Aaron Ward, Niclas Wallin, and eventually Eric Staal all tried out there with varying degrees of success. The bottom line was that the powerplay was not getting the job done and before Rodney's return to Raleigh, it was ranked near the bottom of the league.
Last week Wednesday, Joni Pitkanen took ill and it was determined that he could not play in the game that night against the Kings. The club recalled Rodney, who had a hectic time of it that day, but he did make it to the arena on time and he played a fairly significant role. The defensemen was on the ice for over 21 minutes in his debut this year, third highest among Carolina defensemen for that game. He was scoreless, but he was not on the ice during any of the Los Angeles goals.
Number 33 impressed enough in that game so that the team scratched Tim Conboy and played him as the seventh defenseman against the Islanders on Friday, even though Pitkanen was back in the lineup.
Rodney responded with a secondary assist on the Tuomo Ruutu powerplay goal which broke an 0-24 seven game scoreless streak with the man advantage. Was it just a coincidence that he happened to be in the lineup when the powerplay came to life? Keep reading.
The London, Ontario native picked up another assist on Joe Corvo's powerplay goal on Sunday and was on the ice when the other two powerplay goals were scored for the Canes in that game. Since Rodney has been back in Raleigh, the Hurricanes have scored four powerplay goals out of 13 attempts, (31%), and the defenseman has been on the ice for all four goals.
The youngster is an excellent puck-mover with a snappy, crisp pass and a good eye for finding the open man. Once he gets confident with his shot, he could be very dangerous. He is still somewhat of a liability in his own end because he is a bit smallish and he needs more NHL level experience, which was evidenced by his poor pass to Kyle Okposo against the Islanders in overtime on Friday.
But his expertise in the offensive zone and on the powerplay can not be denied, and that is something this team needs desperately. Carolina fans should expect to see more of Bryan Rodney in the future.